of proposed University parking garage
Ford Great-Granddaughter Returns Home to Help Uncover Mystery of
Who was Buried in Old Farms Family Plot
June 27, 2002
Contact: Carol Wood
TV contact: (434) 924-7550
The great-granddaughter of George Sidney Ford and Amanda Wood Ford
may have helped to uncover the mystery that has shrouded an apparent
19th-century grave shaft on the site of a planned University of
Virginia parking garage.
Norris, 62, who lived on the property until she was a teenager,
came to Charlottesville last weekend to clear up the theories of
just who was buried in that family plot.
Norris as a small child, with her mother
said that her great-grandmother, who with her husband owned a farm
near the corner of Emmet Street and Ivy Road, was buried at the
site in 1895. But, she said, her great-grandmother was exhumed in
the mid-1950s when Norris' parents sold the property. Not wanting
to leave Amanda behind, Norris' mother, Ruth Ford Norris, had her
moved to the cemetery at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Ivy where
George Sidney had been buried in 1911.
Saturday, Norris, armed with stacks of family documents, led several
University officials -- including Executive
Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Leonard W. Sandridge
-- out to St. Paul's to show them the stone marker at George Sidney
Ford's and Amanda Wood Ford's final resting place.
said today that despite this new information, the University asked
archaeologist Benjamin Ford (no relation) to continue his excavation
of the grave shaft. "We are grateful to Mrs. Norris for the
important information she has provided," Sandridge said, "but
we want to be 100 percent sure about this."
late May, the University hired archaeologist Ford to begin exploration
of a 32-by-32-foot area designated as a cemetery on an 1895 deed.
After finding signs of a grave shaft, Ford and his colleagues unearthed
remnants of a coffin on June 14. They included five nails, some
with small wood fragments attached, and a U-shaped piece of what
appeared to be a coffin handle. He previously had found one nail
with wood fragments.
After announcing those findings, University officials said they
would await Ford's report, due this week, and would continue consulting
with the state's Department of Historic Resources about appropriate
next steps. At the time, it was presumed that human remains might
still be found at the gravesite if excavation were to continue.
DHR regulations and state law provide that if human remains are
found, they can be removed and reinterred under certain circumstances.
Another option would be to leave the remains and rework the placement
of the parking garage.
about the same time Ben Ford was making his discoveries, Norris
received news clippings from a friend in Charlottesville relating
what she calls "some inaccuracies" about Norris' Ford
ancestors. "I didn't want my great-grandparents' names to be
used to mislead anyone," she said.
believes there was a pragmatic reason that records from the 1954
sale say that no burials had taken place at the family cemetery,
although she acknowledges she doesn't know that as fact. "The
realtor probably thought it was not a good idea to talk about it,"
she said, "as it could have hurt the sale."
Sidney, a widower when he married Amanda, died at the age of 79
in 1911. Amanda, the mother of his three youngest children - Elizabeth
Davis Ford, George Edgar Ford and Andrew John Ford - and stepmother
to his two older ones, had died 16 years earlier. Norris' grandfather
was their middle son, George Edgar.
who works at Georgetown University in Washington, is something of
an amateur genealogist who has spent the last dozen years compiling
notebooks of her family's history. She has documents that date back
to early 19th-century London when her great-grandfather - George
Sidney Ford - then 17, set sail for America to join his two older
brothers who were already ensconced in Virginia.
Sidney Ford eventually joined his older brother Charles in Charlottesville
and went to work as a carpenter and builder. For 30 years, "G.S.,"
as he was known, was the
of buildings and grounds at the University of Virginia. And according
to his obituary in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Geo. S. Ford,
a Confederate veteran, known to hundreds of graduates of
the University of Virginia throughout the country, is dead at the
home of his daughter, Mrs. John R. Wood, at Ivy."
paints a vivid picture of growing up at 1939 Ivy Road in the red
brick building that now houses the University's Office of Institutional
Assessment and Studies.
Her life was filled with horseback riding over the backfields, croquet
games on the wide sloping lawn next to the house and family picnics
along the creek that ran through the property.
not playing on the farm, Norris and her friends headed for the University's
Grounds, which she called their playgrounds. "Our favorite
occupation on Saturday was to go roller-skating in front of Madison
Hall or the Rotunda." She and her grandfather, George Edgar
Ford, were regulars at U.Va. football games.
her 14th birthday, he presented her with George Sidney's "Recollections
on the Past," written in February 1910, a year before his death.
That document probably helped lay the groundwork for what would
become her later interest in family history. "My grandfather
had told me many of those stories," Norris said, "but
with his gift, I got to read them over and over. I never knew my
great-grandfather, but I always felt close to him."
would like to see a small remembrance garden, in honor of George
Sidney and Amanda, worked into the plans for the public space in
front of the parking garage. "Nothing big," she said,
"just a bit of a Victorian garden where students and neighbors
could sit and reflect. He had been a dedicated employee of the University
for 30 years, and Amanda loved her gardens. I think they would have
you would like to interview Alice Norris, call Carol
Wood, director of News Services at (434) 924-6189.
photographs are available electronically. They include a photograph
of the stone marker on the Fords' gravesite at St. Paul's Episcopal
Church at Ivy, as well as several old family snapshots of the Ford
or e-mail Rebecca Arrington, News Graphics Editor, at 434-924-7189
if you would like copies.
for George Sidney Ford and Amanda Wood Ford
Mrs. George S. Ford died at 4 o'clock this morning at her residence
near the University of Virginia, aged about fifty. Eleven days ago
she suffered a stroke of paralysis from which she never recovered.
Her husband and three children - George, Andrew and Mrs. Bessie
D. Wood - and a host of friends survive. The blow falls heavily
on the devoted family, which has been sorely afflicted of late.
The funeral services will take place at her late residence 3 o'clock
From The Daily Progress, Friday, Feb 22, 1895
Charlottesville, Va., March 18.--Geo. S. Ford, aged seventy-five
years, a Confederate veteran, known to hundreds of graduates of
the University of Virginia throughout the country, is dead at the
home of his daughter, Mrs. John R. Wood, at Ivy, this county. The
funeral will take place at 1:30 o'clock tomorrow afternoon from
St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the service to be conducted by Archdeacon
F. W. Neve.
Ford had been in ill health for several months. On December 14 last
he suffered a stroke of paralysis, his entire left side being affected.
From this attack he rallied somewhat, but in the last few weeks
he sank rapidly.
Ford was born in London, and, in company with his brother, Charles,
came to this country at the age of seventeen. The two located at
the University of Virginia, and were the architects of many structures
at that institution and in Charlottesville, Charles was an expert
swordsman, and at the outbreak of the Civil War went to Richmond
as an instructor of cavalry. After the war he made a tour of the
world, returning finally to London.
Ford was for thirty years superintendent of grounds and buildings
at the University of Virginia. About eighteen years ago he accepted
a place as bookkeeper for Anderson Bros., booksellers at the university,
a position which he held up to two years ago. He was twice married.
His first wife was Miss Anne Bowyer, of this city.
the two children as a result of this union, one survives, Mrs. Hattie
Temple, of Chelsea, Mass. His second wife was Miss Amanda Wood,
of near Whiter Hall, this county. Her death occurred sixteen years
ago. By this marriage there were three children, all of whom are
now living--Mrs. J. R. Wood, of Ivy, and George E. and A. J. Ford,
of this city.
The Times-Dispatch, Richmond, Va., Sun., March 19, 1911 issue, p.
6, c. 3
Note: Saint Paul's Church at Ivy has verified that George S. Ford
was buried in their cemetery in March 1911.